When I was growing up in the 1970s and would occasionally have a stomachache, my dad would give me a spoonful of Mylanta. It was a creamy, antacid liquid with a slight menthol flavor that tasted HORRIBLE. He swore by it, and I knew once it was in my body it would start to work. But I would resist taking it for a long long time, just watching the full spoon sit on the counter. Finally I would hold my breath and take it. And then I would feel better.
What if the emotions we sometimes feel were like bad tasting medicine? I’m not talking about the emotions that we call “happy” or “excited” or “passionate.” I’m talking about the ones we’ve labeled “anxious,” “upset” or “sad.” When these types of emotions become present in us, we don’t like them. We associate those types of feelings as “bad” and meaning that something is wrong and push them away at all costs. They taste awful like that Mylanta.
And what if our brains are just trying to protect us from feeling those emotions? What if they’re doing their job trying to keep us from feelings they have determined are scary or harmful? Can we, instead of resisting feeling these feelings, accept them like the Mylanta – bad taste and all - knowing experiencing them will do us good? Those emotions are simply needing to be felt and experienced and will pass through us, just like that medicine. But usually we play the short game, avoiding the feelings and seeing their fleeting nature as intolerable. And then they come back again.
Can we learn to see those feelings for what they are – a temporary sensation that is safe to feel. That by experiencing that "bad" taste, we are just being in the moment not trying to escape it. And can we see that those feelings aren't so intolerable afterall? Can we sit with that Benadryl, Alka-Seltzer, or Mylanta and acknowledge that no, it may not taste good in that moment, but we’re doing ourselves good by experiencing it?